I wonder sometimes if we would see God more at work in our churches, in our homes, in our land, if we paid attention to the conjunctions in a certain familiar verse. I’ve led people in reading or reciting the verse I’m thinking of at National Day of Prayer services and I’ve been in the room when it’s read in pre-revival prayer vigils. I’ve led choirs with all the fervor I have, hoping to drive its mesage home. God first spoke these words to Solomon but the principle applies to all who follow God, wherever their place on history’s timeline:
…if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and heal their land. 2 Chron. 7:14
It’s a familiar text. But the results, the last half, are anything but common. Why is that?
I’ve heard sermons preached about “our verbs”: Humble ourselves. Pray. Seek His face. Turn from evil, and “God’s verbs”: Hear. Forgive. Heal.
I’ve heard messages, maybe you have too, that turn on the word “then”. But I’ve been thinking lately about a little word in that verse: “And”. Five times it’s used.
Not very boisterous, is it? Not pushy or arrogant at all. But God always chooses His words carefully. The more I reflect on His choice of words here, the more convinced I’ve become that we hold the key to lasting revival in our hands, fellow-Christians, we’re just not willing to use it. See what He says?
If we will humble ourselves
and seek His face
and turn from our wicked ways
He will hear from heaven
and heal our land.
Those are inclusive conjuctions. They wrap around themselves like stranded wire. Like the twists of rope. Like a cable’s spirals. It takes all of them or it doesn’t work.
I’ve been in meetings where we’ve humbled ourselves and prayed, and taken serious time to seek His face – but no revival. We didn’t finish the equation. We somehow rationalized our way into not cleaning house completely – not turning resolutely from our sin. We told ourselves (at least I did) “I’ll take care of that as soon as…” . “I really should do something about a, b, c.” But the enemy convinces us to postpone it a little bit —to do that tonight, or maybe tomorrow— and we do, sidestepping true revival in the process.
I know just how it works, I can point to places in my life I added a+b+c and stopped short of d. I can point to times when I layered 4 on 2 on 1 but left out 3, failing to meet the criteria for the fulfillment of His promise. “I’ll hear. And forgive. And heal.” It takes all four to meet the criteria for God’s mighty work on our behalf. We have a lot of programming, calendars-full of activity, much of it ministry-related, but we long for God to do more.
Isn’t that what we want, really? For God to hear, and forgive, and heal? Personal lives? Homes? Churches? Our Country? The World? How remarkable would that BE?! What doors would that fling open for us to share the love of God with the world around us?! But we don’t. Maybe it’s because we know what someone might discover if the doors were thrown wide open and propped against the porch railing with a folding chair. “Nuh – uhh. I’m not doing that. Leave ’em shut.”
Selah – Stop and think about it.
What would happen if I humbled myself? (so God doesn’t have to) What would happen if I acknowledged who I am – and who I’m not- before Almighty God?
What if I prayed? I mean really prayed. More than meal-times and the Lord’s Prayer and God-bless-the-family at the end of the day? What if I talked to Him all the time about everything the way I imagine praying – but never seem to?
What if I said “Thy face, Lord, do I seek”? What if I looked to Him for guidance at every turn and let Him guide me with just a look so I know I’m never out of step with the Shepherd of my soul?
And what if I quit procrastinating? What if I stopped saying “Yeah, Lord, I will — later.” When I was a kid “not yet” was half a step away from disobedience. James said if I know what to do and don’t do it, it’s sin. So what if I humbled myself and talked to him and really wanted to know what He says so I can obey and then DID it?
I wonder… if I took those inclusive conjunctions seriously and my life lined up with what I prayed and sang, do you think God would be true to HIS word?
(Like I even need to ask.)